July 3, 1849 (Tuesday)

Splendid day.

Visited the Assembly building this evening to see Bayne’s Panorama of a voyage to Europe.  It was very good, the painting was excellent.

The Assembly Building was four stories high and occupied the entire west side of South Tenth Street between Chestnut and Sansom.  The lower floors were stores and shops but the upper floors had been used since 1839 for balls, concerts, and exhibitions. The building was destroyed by a fire on March 18, 1851.  The site is now occupied by the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.  See the map of locations mentioned in Nathan’s journal.

Panoramas, also known as Moving Panoramas, were very popular in the mid-19th century.  Patrons would watch for hours as scenes of faraway places passed before their eyes, complete with special effects and narration.  Nathan saw Bayne’s Panorama of a Voyage to Europe which was sketched, painted, and then later narrated by artist Walter McPherson Bayne (1795–1859), who claimed the canvas took three years to execute. (The Philadelphia Inquirer wondered that it hadn’t taken much longer.)  The experience elicited by the show is that of a passenger on a boat leaving America for a trip to Europe. The voyage began in Boston Harbor and continued past Halifax, Nova Scotia, across the iceberg strewn North Atlantic, past Ireland, down the Mersey, down the Thames, under London Bridge, and eventually down the Rhine.  The artist qua narrator highlighted points of interest and added a little history and geography as well.

Bayne had displayed his panorama in Boston in December 1847 where it was received with much acclaim.  After a few stops in smaller New England cities (e.g., Portland, Maine), the panorama came to Philadelphia in mid-March 1849.  The Philadelphia reviews were no less enthusiastic than Boston, all of them marveling at the realism, the beautiful colors, and the brilliant use of light. The Ledger compared Bayne’s effort favorably to John Banvard’s famous panorama of a 1,200 mile trip down the Mississippi River.  That canvas was advertised as being three miles long! (now assumed an exaggeration); the Bayne’s panorama was allegedly bigger,  billed as the largest panorama ever executed.

The AAS has two copies of Bayne’s book describing the content of his panorama and a broadside advertising the Boston show.  Click here to see the catalog entries.

selection from a broadside in the AAS collections (BDSDS.1847)

Sources:

Bayne, Walter M. Description of Bayne’s Gigantic Panorama of a Voyage to Europe, . . . Philadelphia: United States Job Printing Office, 1849.

“Bayne’s Panorama of a Voyage to Europe.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 14, 1849, page 2, col. 1.

St. George Joyce, J., ed. Story of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Harry B. Joseph, 1919.

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